The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families continues to remove children from their homes at a frequency not seen in years.  Most of these families cannot afford to hire attorneys.  Fortunately, in Massachusetts there is a right to counsel for parents and children in these cases.  Unfortunately, there are not enough certified attorneys who have the time to zealously  represent all these families in need.  The Children and Family Law Division (CAFL) of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) is seeking applications from attorneys to attend our upcoming certification training on February 2-4 in Worcester.

We previously scheduled our certification training for April 2015 at MCLE in Boston and we are continuing to accept applications for that training.  However, due to the serious shortage of attorneys in a number of counties, we are offering the first three days of training in February  for members of the private bar who may be interested in accepting appointments immediately to represent parents in state intervention cases (typically referred to as “care and protection” or “termination of parental rights” cases) in the Juvenile Court.  Those attorneys will be required to complete their training in April along with the rest of the certification class.  The February training is free; accepted attorneys will pay MCLE a prorated registration fee for the remainder of the training.

Here is some information that might help attorneys decide whether they are interested in accepting the challenge to protect their clients’ most fundamental rights in fast-paced multi-party litigation.

  1. Certification Training – This training begins with three days of introduction to Juvenile Court practice, procedures, and substantive law, February 2-4, 2015, in Worcester.  Attorneys are asked to keep February 9, 2015, free as a snow date.  These three days of training will be offered free of charge.  Successful completion of the training will enable attorneys to be provisionally certified to accept assignments to represent parents in state intervention cases in the Juvenile Court.  All attorneys will be assigned a mentor who will advise and assist them.
  2. This training will continue in Boston on April 7-9, 2015, where it will address the challenges that arise when representing children from newborns to teenagers in care and protection/termination of parental rights cases, as well as, in status offense cases, also known as “Children Requiring Assistance” matters.  Attorneys practice trial skills in small groups and receive feedback from experienced faculty.  One-day mock hearings will be scheduled April 14-16, 2015.  If selected, participants must keep all three dates open until assigned to a specific date and place for the mock hearing.  Upon successful completion of the trial skills portion of this training, attorneys will be provisionally certified to represent parents and children.  This training will be open to attorneys of all levels of experience, but trial experience is preferred.
  3. Assignment – Care and Protection/Termination of Parental Rights cases being, most often, with a petition being filed ex parte by the Department of Children and Families.  The attorney’s responsibilities for the case begin immediately upon assignment, as he or she must prepare for a potential emergency custody hearing to take place within 72 hours of any ex parte order (the “72-hour hearing”).  These cases frequently continue to be court involved for 15 months or more.   Children Requiring Assistance cases (or status offenses) are usually concluded within 15 months.
  4. Compensation – Private attorneys are paid at the rate of $50/hour for their work on CAFL cases.
  5. Eligibility to Practice in Massachusetts – Massachusetts’s Rules of Professional Conduct – specifically, Rule 5.5(c)(2) – permit an attorney to practice on a “temporary basis” if admitted pro hac vice.  See  Comment 9, Mass. R. Prof. Conduct 5.5.  Comment 6 to Rule 5.5 indicates that “temporary” practice can include legal services provided “in this jurisdiction on a recurring basis, or for an extended period of time.”  Nevertheless, it is our hope that any out-of-state attorney seeking to take cases here will apply for admission to the Massachusetts bar within a reasonable time period.
  6. Expectations Regarding Performance – Attorneys are required to abide by CAFL’s performance standards and meet other requirements set forth in CPCS’s Assigned Counsel Manual.
  7. Support – Each new member of CAFL’s private attorney panel is assigned a mentor.  The mentor is available to support the attorney for the first couple of years of practice, to introduce the attorney to court personnel and others, to assist in learning local practices, to attend initial court hearings, and to provide other support and assistance.
  8. Attorneys who are interested in pursuing this opportunity should complete an application for admission to the training.  CAFL Trial Application February-April 2015. CPCS is committed to ensuring that the panel of attorneys accepting CAFL assignments is sensitive to the diversity of the client population it serves.  The deadline for submission of applications is January 21, 2015.  There will be a rolling admissions process for this February training; we are particularly in need of attorneys who will practice in central and western Massachusetts.  Attorneys who apply for the February training must anticipate being available to accept appointments as early as late February.  Upon acceptance, attorneys must immediately apply to be a state vendor and submit proof of professional liability insurance.  Late applications may be considered depending upon geographic need and availability of space.
  9. If applicants cannot meet the immediate needs that our February training is intended to address, we will consider their applications for the 7-day training scheduled in Boston in April 2015.